Temperament and Handling of Chinchillas
Chinchillas vary distinctly in temperament, and this should be taken into consideration before they are purchased, selected for breeding stock, or handled. Chinchilla temperament is largely inherent. Although patience and handling can improve the temperament of a inherently mean or high strung chinchilla, it won't change the basic behavior the chinchilla was born with. Breeding ill tempered chinchillas generally produces similar tempered offspring. You get what you start with to a large degree. Temperament is more apparent in mature chinchillas, and somewhat less easily assessed in kits. If you see a lot of standing up and chirping, mouth open wide, or spraying by the females, this is a sign you are not off to a good start. An exception to these generalizations might exist in certain instances. For example, if a naturally nice tempered chinchilla is mistreated or stressed, that animal may revert back to a nice temperament with proper treatment, patience, and time. Last, when chinchillas are stressed or moved long distances, it may take days, weeks, or even months for the new owner to gain the animal's trust, and for its true temperament to emerge. It would be unfair to judge the temperament of a new arrival too soon. If temperament is essential to the buyer, he or she should travel to visit the breeder, and see the animal before it is moved in order to judge the temperament more accurately. Additionally, this will give the buyer a chance to assess the environment in which the chinchilla has been raised.
In regards to handling, chinchillas are not 'lap animals' like dogs or cats. Only a small percentage of chinchillas will go out of their way to interact with humans. Most are cautious or indifferent, and a few truly do not like humans. Chinchillas require patience and situational awareness from their handlers. Chinchillas are highly reactive to infrasound, sudden movements and sudden noises. When being held, some chinchillas will sit quietly if their back legs are supported by one hand, and their front feet supported by the other hand, with their front feet held higher than the back. Chinchillas tend to be more comfortable facing away from the handler, but with their backs held up against the person. It is safe to hold a chinchilla temporarily by the base (not the middle or tip) of the tail. Be careful not to grasp the body fur where the tail connects to the body or you may have a handful of fur and a damaged coat. This is because chinchillas can slip or lose their body fur when they are scared, being part of their natural defense mechanism. Chinchillas might also bite if hurt or extremely frightened. Be careful not to squeeze them too tightly because their ribs are very easily broken. Young children should be supervised closely when allowed to handle a chinchilla. Chinchillas do not do well when the handler is loud or excited. For this reason, chinchillas are often better handled by observant adults, or very mature and patient children. It is also common to have fingers bitten when people stick their fingers through the cage wire and the chinchilla mistakes this for an offering of food. Patience and awareness can make handling a chinchilla a positive experience for all involved.